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Valeri Nichushkin expected to return for Avalanche after missing nearly two months

Valeri Nichushkin will return to the lineup Friday night for the Colorado Avalanche, coach Jared Bednar confirmed after the club’s morning skate.

Nichushkin last played Jan. 10 against the Vegas Golden Knights. The Avs said he was “under the weather” when he didn’t play the next game in Toronto and he entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program Jan. 15 while the team was in Montreal.

“It’s nice to have him back,” Bednar said. “Obviously an impact player for us. When you start adding guys like that to the lineup, it helps.”

Nichushkin was cleared to return to practice Feb. 26. He’s expected to skate on the second line with trade addition Casey Mittelstadt and Jonathan Drouin. He also worked with the second power-play unit during the morning skate.

Before entering the program, Nichushkin was playing some of the best hockey of his career. From Nov. 9, the day after his daughter was born, until the game against Vegas, Nichushkin scored 21 goals and had 35 points in 29 contests. He has 22 goals and 42 points in 40 games overall this season.

Nichushkin’s return to the lineup is only part of a huge shakeup for the Avalanche. Four new players — Middelstadt, Brandon Duhaime, Yakov Trenin and Sean Walker — are all expected to make their Avs debut against the Minnesota Wild. Colorado traded for Middelstadt and Walker on Wednesday, then added Duhaime and Trenin in a pair of deals Thursday.

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